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Cigars For Hope

Cigarmakers and their customers have a warm heart for the needy
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005

(continued from page 3)

Fuente and Newman found a kindred soul in David Luther, executive director and founder of the Institute for Integral Dominican

Development. The initial plan was to add a wing to an existing school in the area, but Luther, who has lived in the Dominican Republic for more than 50 years, persuaded Fuente and Newman to do something more: to create their own school, with amenities such as a health center and recreation center.

"The school is not just teaching the kids how to read and write," says Luther. "It's teaching them to get along together. Byproducts we didn't expect are happening." Unbeknownst to the organizers, people from neighboring towns had an inbred hatred of one another. Early rides on the bus resulted in fights. Now they work together. (One tiny girl, obviously a future politician, forged an alliance with a larger, older girl from another town during school elections and bartered a power share. She is now president of the class.)

The infectious smiles of the children warm the hearts of visitors, especially those who have children of their own. They greet visitors in the English they have recently learned, and laugh just like children from any other part of the world. Fuente warmly greets the children, who call him Carlito. Newman is particularly popular, standing surrounded by happy kids as he hands out photos from earlier visits. Fuente's brother-in-law, Wayne Suarez, a big, tough man, is equally moved by the little ones.

The school opened in September. On a visit by Cigar Aficionado editors in February, electricity was about to be installed, which would power the computers. The future will bring a baseball field and basketball court, but the most pressing matter is an expansion to handle more children, especially those past grade eight. Graduates now have nowhere to go.

On opening day, the students were given new uniforms and new shoes, and took part in a grand opening ceremony. The children were asked to march at the ceremony, but resisted at first. Many explained it was the first time they had a pair of new shoes, and they didn't want to harm them.

After the Cigar Family school is over one day, a yellow bus provided by the charity stops, and happy children run out, the sun nearly dipping beneath the mountains on the horizon. The children smile and laugh, heading toward their homes.

They are the lucky ones. For now, the school is full. For the little boy in his village with the old eyes, hope will have to wait at least one more year.

TO HELP:
The Cigar Family Charitable Foundation
www.cf-cf.com
The World of Montecristo Relief Organization
www.montecristocup.com
Liberty Communication Homeless Housing Community Services
www.libertycs.org


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